When the 2012 MLS schedule was released, plenty of people circled tomorrow's match between the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy. It's the first meeting between the two sides since last season's MLS Cup Final and everyone expected it to be a battle between two of the better teams in the league. Now with just over 24 hours to go until kickoff, it's lost some of the sheen of expectation...and it's all the Galaxy's fault!
Bruce Arena's team has been abysmal for the most part this season. After being unceremoniously knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League by Toronto FC, it appears that the Galaxy have lost their mojo. Landon Donovan is uninspired, David Beckham is back to his pre-2011 form of spending most of his time finding better things to that focusing on his play. The rest of roster is under performing and the grand "super club" experiment is blowing up in Arena's face because he has no real depth to speak of on his roster.
Sure most MLS team's struggle to have true depth, but it's certainly still possible to build a roster capable of surviving some injuries and absences. So instead of rolling along to their second straight championship, questions are starting to be asked about whether or not this Galaxy team can make the playoffs. It's a bit early for that, but if they don't turn things around, it could become a real possibility.
LA will be without Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, both of whom are away on international duty.
The Dynamo are about to be dealing with several absences as well after this weekend. Geoff Cameron is already gone to USMNT duty, but Andre Hainault and Je-Vaughn Watson will be available for tomorrow's match before heading off their respective international teams. Houston's depth is about to severely tested over the coming weeks, so that fact, along with the truth about the Galaxy's form makes this match a big one for the Dynamo.
Three points are a must in my view. This is a wounded and beaten-up LA side ripe for the picking, the Dynamo need to come out and pound them in to oblivion. Eaiser said than done of course, but if Houston is as good of a team as we hope, these are the types of matches they need to start winning. Not just because it's at home, but because the Galaxy are struggling and the last thing Houston should be doing is allowing teams that are down to get back up at their expense.
The team has had their first normal week in awhile after their brutal four match in 11 day run that completed last weekend. Hopefully all the minor bumps and bruises are healed and everyone is ready to go. Kinnear will put out his strongest lineup and the biggest question is what adjustments he will make at the back with Cameron gone. Either Hainault or Jermaine Taylor will move inside with Bobby Boswell, I'm thinking it will be Hainault for what it's worth, and how quickly everyone settles in will be vital.
We all witnessed how much better this defense is with Cameron involved and we all no doubt remember the struggles through half of 2011 when he wasn't. Hopefully this group has learned from that experience and will handle things better.
Therein lies the danger for tomorrow's match. The Dynamo's form has been very up and down recently, we've seen the best and worst from this team of late. Despite all the issues for LA, Houston will need to be at their best on Saturday.
The Galaxy still have weapons, they can still score goals. If the defense is mistake prone and not effective, LA could slice them to pieces. The Dynamo will need to control the play, not let the Galaxy spend a great time of time in possession and most importantly, score some goals. Despite all the struggles for LA, this still will be an interesting match and certainly not an easy win.
The match is sold-out and will be on the NBC Sports Network...hopefully BBVA Compass Stadium will be packed with loud and rowdy Dynamo fans. With at least 500 tickets floating around on re-seller websites, we may see a similar crowd to opening day.
Predicted Lineup: Hall; Taylor, Hainault, Boswell, Ashe; Moffat, Carr, Camargo, Davis; Ching, Bruin
Predicted Score: 2-1 Dynamo